BOSTON (CBS) – After the latest Suffolk University/Boston Globe/WGBH News poll of Massachusetts resident reactions to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Charlie Baker might as well acknowledge the obvious and drop the R next to his name.
OK, maybe that’s a bit strong.
According to the poll (500 respondents surveyed between April 29 and May 2, margin of error 4.4%), more than six-in-ten Republicans here do approve of Baker’s handling of the crisis, in sharp contrast with the super-spreaders who protested the shutdown in front of the State House Monday. And 58% of Republicans approved of Baker’s decision to extend the restrictions at least through May 18th.
But those majorities are paltry compared with the rest of the public.
A whopping 84% overall approve of Baker’s work, an opinion consistent among virtually all demographics save Republicans. More than eight-in-ten overall support the shutdown extension, even down the Cape, where they stand to lose their shirts if the summer season is wiped out.
Local Republicans are also outliers when it comes to approval of President Trump’s crisis management, with 78% of them approving compared with 27% of independents and eight percent of Democrats. And they reflect the impact of Trump’s “leadership” in other ways: fewer Republicans say they wear masks anytime they’re outdoors, just 28%, compared with an overall rate of 41%.
But there are signs in this poll that local steadfastness still cuts across the partisan divide.
Asked how long they can “emotionally endure” this situation, 38% say “indefinitely.” 29% are good for a few more months, 21% for a few more weeks. That’s 88% who disagree with the “end it now” crowd.
And even here in the world capital of sports madness, few seem eager to rush back to the way we were. Given a list of public activities to choose from, only riding the T was viewed with more skepticism than “attending a sporting event,” with just 23% saying they’d be comfortable doing that. Asked how they’d feel about it if there were “an effective treatment but not a vaccine for COVID-19,” the comfort level rises to 46%, still the second-lowest of any cited activity.
And even if there were a vaccine, 23% say they’d still feel uncomfortable about going to a game. Local sports executives will have their work cut out for them luring back the fans.
Other notable findings: Rep. Joe Kennedy and company are winning the argument about expanded voting by mail in the upcoming primary and general elections, with 74% supporting “all voting by mail” while just 21% echo Republican opposition.
And there’s a perception gap between what people say they’re doing to comply with safety precautions and what they see others doing. Only six percent admit to being not very/not at all strict about social distancing – “staying home as much as you can, not gathering in groups, and not shaking hands or hugging.” But 29% say “other people” have been not very/not at all strict.
Finally, some positive results.
Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed said they believe their fellow citizens are being “mostly generous and kind to others,” while just 18% see others as “mostly selfish and looking out for their own interests.” And while 56% are very or somewhat concerned about their jobs or personal finances and 46% say the crisis has cut their income, 69% think life will be better a year from now.
As long as the patience, intelligence and empathy of the majority holds firm, support for what Baker and other officials are doing will likely stay solid. The question is – how much stress can people take before, as Yeats put it: “things fall apart; the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”